Homeschool (un)planning, part five

How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. :: Annie Dillard

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. :: Aristotle

The benefits of parental authority are substantial. When parents matter more than peers, they can teach right or wrong in a meaningful way. They can prioritize attachments within the family over attachments with same-age peers. They can foster better relationships between their child and other adults. They can help their child develop a more robust and more authentic sense of self, grounded not in how many “likes” a photos gets on Instagram or Facebook, but in a child’s truest nature. They can educate desire, instilling a longing for higher and better things, in music, in the arts, and in one’s own character. :: Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting (emphasis my own)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Allowing my children to engage in meaningful work. Cultivating in them a sense of belonging. Giving them opportunities to create connections. These were the three big goals I outlined in my first homeschooling post. Since then I’ve talked about taking the long view, finding the homeschool subject matter hidden in it, leaning into rhythm to support us, and the “other” part of homeschooling, skill-training. That leaves room to consider what I believe is the largest part of homeschooling: the education of desire, the informing of tastes, the molding of hearts.

The bulk of what I do as a parent and as an educator is this. It goes beyond choosing the best books to the heart of what it means to be a person, the core of who I hope they become. How we spend our days really is how we spend our lives, and that begins in childhood. Just as no one else’s chocolate chip cookies can ever compare to the ones our moms baked for us when we were eight, as parents, whether we like it or not, we are creating the blueprint for our children’s lives every day. Where will they seek comfort when they are crushed and hurting? How will they celebrate the joys of their lives? Will the strains of commercial jingles haunt their internal ears (my own lingering problem from childhood!), or will it be the strains of birdsong and rushing water and wind in the trees? Will their in-jokes be about television shows or Shakespeare plays? Will they be constantly avoiding punishment, or will they know the joy of doing the right thing for its own sake?

All of us as people seek comfort and joy in the things we have known before, especially the things that first gave us comfort and joy when we were young, and we didn’t have the big picture. We are creating not just a family culture, but a way of life to carry them forward into adulthood, a toolbox of experiences to help them forge their own way. As homeschoolers, we have a unique burden because so many of their experiences are at home, but this is true of all parents. Keeping this in mind helps to inform not only what books or experiences I include in our school days, but all of the things I exclude from our lives, the things I say no to.

Helping to create the map of someone’s desires is a weighty business, but it has power in it, too! It allows me to be free to say no. No to the offer of a free television. No to the gifts of dollar store plastic toys. No to terrible books. It also gives me the strength to say yes! To hours spent outside even when it is muddy or rainy, to extra church services even when I don’t feel like going, to huge craft messes all over the house. The same way that thinking about my long-term goals for their education allows me to see how to get there, knowing that the choices I am making every day are truly important takes the mystery out of them. I can feel confident and peaceful in my choices to prioritize the lovely, pure, and true.

I know you are probably wondering, but what do you actually DO during school time? I promise, I am getting there!


9 thoughts on “Homeschool (un)planning, part five

  1. I’ve been greatly enjoying this series. So rich. I chuckled a bit when I read the in-jokes about Shakespeare- the line “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” said in best perplexed sort of pirate voice (It’s Puck talking and apparently Puck sounds like a pirate?) and “I go I go, see how I go, swifter than a Tartar’s bow” are said ALL the time ’round here. I absolutely agree with shifting the perspective to “what I am saying yes to” versus focusing on what I’m saying no to is the key. It’s easy to get misled and disappointed that way.


  2. Just wanted to drop a note to thank you for all of this. Too often I judge my days by what I reap and ignore that which I see. This is a good reality check.


  3. I have four boys and one girl and I so wish that my girl could have the life your girls have. At the same time I wish I could see someone living your lifestyle but with boys. I’m suspicious that the ideal for the boys would be the life that Almanzo Wilder led as a young boy. 🙂


  4. “Will the strains of commercial jingles haunt their internal ears (my own lingering problem from childhood!), or will it be the strains of birdsong and rushing water and wind in the trees? Will their in-jokes be about television shows or Shakespeare plays?”

    YES! This (among other reasons) is precisely why we don’t have TV. That’s all my family did growing up–watch TV! I’m just now (in my late 20s, as a homeschooling mom) reading books I should have read as a child but missed out on because my family thought Nickelodeon was a better way to pass the time than read Little House on the Prairie (which I had never even HEARD OF until high school when…you guessed it… they started playing it on Nick-at-Nite!). Sometimes I mourn when I think of my own childhood because I missed out on so much (good books, time outside in nature, learning an instrument, learning valuable life skills or old-fashioned skills that are just nice to have to bring beauty into the world), all for the sake of TV. There was plenty of money for the big cable package but not enough for piano lessons? Kill your TV indeed!

    Sorry to go on a bit of a rant there. 😉


  5. Thank you for this. All of it. I feel like you give voice to so many of the things I think and feel about our days at home together but have trouble expressing. 😘


  6. So appreciate your thoughts and words. I have been home educationing entering our 12th year. It is so easy to loose sight of whys and how to do this life. It truly is a way of life that ebbs and flows through different seasons and ages. This has helped me return to the simplicity of it. To keep things intentionally small and simple is so counter culture these days. So easy to get caught up in things that don’t support where we are meaning to go and how we want to live. Thank you!


  7. I have three bio children 24, 20 and 18 and now two adopted (foster) children 4.5 and 3 years. We home/public/private schooled at varied times in all of their lives…..

    I always worried I was not “doing” enough. Always. We did do math workbooks. We leaned toward nature/waldorf learning. We had lots and lots and lots of outside time, music making and listening, reading/discussion, crafting/making/cooking and lego time. Sometimes it looked like we did nothing. Having my children in schools in different grades, in different states, in different types of schools helped me to understand how school really goes. It alleviated most worries, most of the time. My two younger boys went to public school part time for high school – that worked PERFECTLY in many ways. They all are smart, thoughtful and kind people. They all are in college or employed. They all have had to navigate the “real” world. They all know, because they lived it, what the pace of life could, dare I say should, be.

    I have a question for you and anyone else that would share-

    The second time around, so to speak I am clearer about what are my values/ideals- I am a believer in simplicity, somewhat minimalism, and the beauty of and impulses of waldorf/steiner… do actually I “marry” the simplicity of less/minimalism with waldorf in homeschool? If a child attend waldorf school they get the benefit of a fully created/funded/staffed/stocked “school” and a simple home….but how does it manifest inward and outward in a child if they only have the simplicity of home?



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